How to Sleep When Pregnant - Featured

How to Sleep When Pregnant: Best Sleep Position & Tips

by Dr. Lina Velikova, MD

Many expecting couples believe that a good night’s sleep will be impossible after their baby is born. However, many don’t realize that peaceful sleep during pregnancy is even more difficult. At some point in her pregnancy, a woman is likely to experience sleep problems. This brings up the question of how to sleep when pregnant.

During the first trimester, pregnant women typically sleep more than usual. It’s normal to feel tired as your body “works” to protect and feed your baby. The placenta (the organ that supplies the fetus with nutrients until birth) has just formed, and your body produces more blood, which is then pumped faster by your heart. This makes you tired, and it makes you need more sleep. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are well-known, but they’re even less desirable for pregnant women.

Pregnancy and Lack of Sleep

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to worry about how to sleep during pregnancy in the first trimester. Sleep quality often decreases this early, especially for pregnant women who are already experiencing most of the common pregnancy-based discomforts. Problems with a stuffy nose during the night (due to elevated estrogen levels and a dry nasal mucosa) or nausea and vomiting play a big role in keeping you from your sleep.

Regardless of your sleeping position during pregnancy in the first 3 months and on, a lack of sleep can also be caused by a constant urge to urinate. As the abdomen continues to grow, it gets harder to find a position to sleep in that eases this pressure. Pregnancy-specific heartburn can also impact sleep patterns.

Interestingly, insomnia could also be a symptom of an impending birth—i.e. the body keeps you alert, so get ready to experience many sleepless nights for the last month. Therefore, both sleeping a lot during pregnancy and not sleeping at all are possibilities.

No matter how tired you are, finding a comfortable position in bed and maintaining it all night can be one of the biggest challenges as your pregnancy advances. Restless sleep begins in the first trimester, when increased pressure on the bladder can cause you to run to the bathroom more often than usual. At later stages, as described above, you may also suffer from indigestion, heartburn, or leg cramps. When it comes to sleeping well during pregnancy, all of these issues can be a concern.

As a result, you may experience difficulties finding a comfortable way to support your bump. And when you finally find peace, some well-placed baby kicks can wake you up all over again.

Why Do Sleep Problems Occur During Pregnancy?

How to Sleep When Pregnant - Symptoms

The first and most important cause of sleep problems is the increasing size of the fetus. Additionally, sleeping on your stomach while pregnant or repositioning yourself in bed becomes more difficult as the pregnancy progresses. If you’ve always slept on your back or belly before pregnancy, it can be hard to start sleeping on one side.

In the first trimester, you might feel more tired or faint, and it’s sometimes possible for you to fall asleep at any time and in any posture. Usually, sleeping too much during pregnancy becomes less of an issue during the second trimester, but in other cases, it continues up to the baby’s delivery.

If this is one of the side effects of your pregnancy, give yourself more time to rest, and try to steal every free minute to sleep. Even a 30-minute nap is enough to help you feel better.

Common Physical Symptoms That Can Affect Your Sleep During Pregnancy

There are some physical complaints that accompany almost every pregnancy:

  • Frequent urination: Your kidneys start working harder to filter the increased volume of blood moving through your body (30%–50% more than you had before pregnancy). The result of this filtering process is a larger amount of urine. This complaint is a pretty big impediment as you figure out how to sleep when you are pregnant. Moreover, as your body grows and the uterus gets bigger, the pressure on your bladder increases. This means more frequent visits to the toilet during the day and night. The number of visits you make at night may be higher if your baby is relatively active during this part of the day.
  • Back pain: Back or leg pain is brought on by your increased weight. Sleeping on your back during pregnancy not only risks hampering the fetus’s blood supply, but it can also further intensify any pain in your back or lower back.
  • Increased heart rate: Your heart rate increases during pregnancy to allow your heart to pump a more substantial amount of blood, and the more blood you give to the uterus, the faster your heart will beat to send enough blood to other parts of your body. An increased heart rate will happen regardless of your sleeping position during pregnancy, even once you’re in the 7th month.
  • Accelerated breathing: You may have breathing difficulties as the growing uterus takes up more and more space, leading to increased pressure on your diaphragm. At the same time, you may notice that you’re breathing harder, the main reason for this being the increased need for oxygen.
  • Acidity and constipation: Many women get heartburn when the stomach’s contents return to the esophagus. During pregnancy, the entire secretion system slows down its work, so food stays in the stomach longer. Heartburn or constipation may occur as a result. Sleeping upright while pregnant helps alleviate these symptoms.

Pregnancy and Dreams

Many pregnant women note more realistic dreams than usual, some even becoming nightmares. Stress also affects sleep. You might be worried about the baby’s health, whether you’ll be a good parent, or how the baby will change your life. Sometimes moms-to-be feel nervous about the birth itself.

All these feelings are normal, but they can keep you (and your partner) awake at night. However, every case is unique. As we’ve already seen, there are also pregnant women who have good reason to wonder, Is it normal to sleep a lot during pregnancy?

If you’re having a problematic pregnancy, or you constantly worry about what you need to do to keep your baby healthy, you’re under stress. Combined with stranger dreams than usual, you’ll sleep less well than before and often wake up at night.

If you make sleep a priority in your daily routine, you’ll get the most of the benefits that accompany a great sleep, such as boosting the immune system, controlling your blood sugar levels, and reducing stress. You can read even more useful facts about sleep in this infographic.

Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

How to Sleep When Pregnant - Sleep Position

The more your pregnancy progresses, the harder it is to find a comfortable position to sleep in, and the harder it becomes to turn over in bed. It’s more convenient for you to sleep on one side, especially on the right side, leaning your belly on a pillow. This way, the baby won’t press on your organs, and your heart will function as well as it can.

Sleeping on your back while pregnant disturbs blood circulation, which is the principal reason it isn’t recommended. Sleeping on your left or right side during pregnancy also reduces the likelihood of back pain, a condition we already know can wake you up at night.

At the beginning of your pregnancy, try to start a habit of sleeping on one side. Lying on one side, preferably on the left side, with curved knees, is probably the most comfortable posture for the entire pregnancy. This is also considered the best sleeping position during pregnancy because it benefits circulation in both the mother and baby.

This helps the heart because it prevents any extra pressure caused by the baby’s weight on the larger vein (vena cava) by which the blood returns to the heart. Because the liver is on the right side, lying on the left protects this large organ from uterine pressure. Ask your physician for recommendations—in most cases, lying on one side or the other helps you reduce any organ or back pressure.

Sleeping Aids During Pregnancy

The following tips can increase your chances of a comfortable night’s sleep:

  • Stop drinking beverages with caffeine, such as coffee and tea, as much as possible. Limit their intake to the morning or early afternoon at the latest.
  • Avoid large amounts of liquids and don’t have too much food late in the evening or before going to bed (of course, have enough food and liquids during the day). A sumptuous breakfast and lunch and a light dinner may be what you need as you figure out how to sleep better when pregnant.
  • If nausea often wakes you up, maybe eat some biscuits before going to bed—or something else that’s gentle on your stomach.
  • Consider getting an adjustable mattress.
  • Use the bed only for sleeping and for activities like reading. Don’t use it for work, household duties, or other important responsibilities.
  • Try to always go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise just before you go to bed. Instead, try something relaxing.
  • If you get a stiff leg, it can help if you press that foot with your other foot or stand on one leg. You also have to make sure that you’re taking enough calcium, which helps reduce these sensations.
  • If anxiety keeps you awake, consider taking pregnancy classes where you can also learn how to sleep when pregnant up through your third trimester. The knowledge you’ll glean and the company of other pregnant women can help you relax.

What to Do When You Can’t Fall Asleep

How to Sleep When Pregnant - Problems

During pregnancy, you’re likely to have trouble falling asleep at least a few times. Instead of rolling over, worrying about this and that, and counting the hours till dawn, get up and do something. Read a book, listen to music, watch TV, check your email or social media, or do something else that pleases you. Eventually, you should feel tired enough to go back to bed.

FAQ

Can I hurt my baby by sleeping on my right side?

One of the best sleeping poses is on the left side. This position is ideal for circulation and blood flow—both for the mother and baby. However, sleeping on the right side is the second best sleep position if that’s your preference. You can even alternate between these two positions if you’re having trouble getting comfortable.

When should I stop sleeping on my stomach while pregnant?

Sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy isn’t recommended because it risks putting pressure on the baby. Nevertheless, as the pregnancy continues to advance, resting on your bump becomes more and more challenging anyway. You certainly can sleep on your tummy for as long as it’s comfortable, which will roughly be for the first 3–4 months. Still, even though this is physically possible, it isn’t the best position.

Can I sleep on my back while pregnant?

Sleeping on your back during pregnancy isn’t recommended due to circulation problems for both mother and baby. If your normal sleeping posture is on your back, it isn’t a problem if you continue this practice during the first trimester of your pregnancy. But when your uterus begins to weigh more, usually by the third month, it’s best to choose another sleep position.

What happens if you accidentally sleep on your back while pregnant?

Don’t worry too much if you end up sleeping on your back. It’s perfectly natural to change your posture in your sleep, and you can’t control it, anyway. Perhaps around the third trimester, your body will stop moving into this position because it’ll be too difficult to breathe. If, however, you still end up on your back and the baby’s weight presses against the so-called vena cava, the discomfort should wake you. Look for recommendations from your doctor; you may be advised to use a pillow to help you stay on one side all night.

How do I figure out how to best sleep with a body pillow when pregnant?

Some women find that putting a pillow under the stomach or between the thighs are the best options for them. You can experiment with them to find the right position. Pillows in the form of a “U” or “O” are the most comfortable for pregnant women. Consider getting a king size mattress since these pillows tend to be bulky and you’ll need more space.

Conclusion

Although it is common, lack of sleep during pregnancy can affect the mother-to-be’s health. Don’t just casually wonder how to sleep when pregnant—make your sleep a priority. If necessary, sleep a little bit during the day to catch up on your lost rest. It’s not too long until your baby will be the one deciding when you and your family get your sleep, after all.

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